Why I Love Gift Cards: 5 Reasons Gift Cards Make Perfect Holiday Gifts

Photo: Casey Serin

Gift cards tend to have a bad reputation, perhaps because the receiver thinks they are too impersonal. But I would much rather get a gift card (or cash) than something I can't use or clothing that doesn't fit. There's nothing worse than having to return a gift. Not only can it be a hassle, but it's also difficult to explain to your aunt why you aren't wearing that argyle sweater vest she gave you for Christmas.

If you are looking for that perfect gift, here are a five reasons gift cards can make life easier for you and the person receiving. (See also: 5 Reasons Why You Should Give Kids Cash for the Holidays)

1. Gift Cards Guarantee Gifts People Will Love

Whether you are buying a gift card from someone's favorite clothing store or giving free downloads from iTunes to the music lover in your life, gift cards guarantee that people will love what you give them. They have the freedom to pick out whatever they want, and you are relieved of the stress of finding something perfect for everyone. Gift cards are also ideal if you are buying for in-laws you don't know that well. Amazon sells everything from books to kitchen sinks, so purchasing gift cards from a general retailer will also help guarantee that there's something for everyone, even the picky people in your life.

2. They Save Money and Time

If you are purchasing gifts for a lot of people — a dozen or more nieces and nephews for instance — you can budget a dollar amount for each card. This also prevents arguments over which cousin got the better gift, because everyone gets the same amount of money. And it saves you the time shopping for each person. Plus, even if you get a gift receipt, returning gifts can be a headache, especially right after the holidays when customer service lines are backed up to the entrance of the store.

3. You Can Buy Gifts Without Leaving Home

You don't even have to leave your house to do your holiday shopping thanks to the convenience of the Internet. Most stores offer online gift cards, and you can personalize them with graphics and personal messages. A lot of retailers even have an option to email an electronic gift card to someone, which is convenient for you, and it helps the receiver keep track of the card. If you are one of those last-minute shoppers, you can send an e-gift card at any time, even on holidays when most stores are closed.

4. They Make Giving and Receiving More Fun

Personally, I don't shop for myself that much because I don't put aside a lot of money in my budget for it. But if someone gave me a gift card to my favorite kitchen store, I can think of nothing I'd like to do more than wander around looking at iron woks and sharpening stones. If you know the person well, you will know exactly the stores where they would most like to shop. There's also the option of giving movie gift cards, or buying a card from someone's favorite restaurant. It's always nice to know that you are giving something loved ones will enjoy picking out for themselves, and treating someone to dinner and a movie is always appreciated.

5. Gift Cards Can Be Practical

For practical people who never spend money on themselves, give them a gift card from a place where they can purchase something they need, or may not have the money for. I would gladly accept a $50 gift card for groceries, for instance. Don't forget pet owners could always use more cat litter or dog food. And for that hard-to-buy-for person in your life, money is always an option.

Don't spend all your time waiting in lines and being choosy over gifts this holiday season. Save yourself the trouble and just go for the gift card. It will make everyone happy, including your wallet.

How do you feel about gift cards? Are there other reasons you like giving them? Discuss in the comments section below.

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Guest's picture

These tips are the exact reasons why I love giving and receiving gift cards during the holidays. Some people are absolutely against it because they think you should put more thought into something, but a lot of the time gift cards are a way better present than anything else. I'm like you, not a lot of room in my budget to head out to the mall for myself whenever I feel like it, so I especially love getting gift cards from family and friends, because it means they got me something I know I'll love when I get to pick it out!

Guest's picture

Gift cards can be good, but it's still important to put some thought into the gift and ensure that the gift card is something the recipient will use.

Each year I usually get a Starbucks gift card or two as a gift. While I appreciate the sentiment, I'm not a coffee drinker. The idea of paying a couple of dollars for a cup of hot tea or even hot chocolate, which I could make just as good (or better) at home for a fraction of the price just seems silly to me, even if I don't actually have to spend my own money for it. I usually end up swapping the Starbucks card with my sister for a Target card or having a friend buy it off me. It all works out, but it's a few extra steps. It would be much easier if the gift giver knew me a little better and got me a gift card to the local used bookstore, comic shop or even Target (where I would promise to use it for something fun and not just groceries.).

Guest's picture

I agree - it's important for the gift giver to know what stores (or restaurants) the recipient likes so the gift card will be truly appreciated. A little research on finding out the recipient's preferences goes a long way.

Guest's picture

THANK YOU for writing an article that praises gift cards. I used to get clothes as gifts all the time (without asking for the clothes, mind you) Very rarely did someone get it right when it came to clothing style, color and size. Returning the clothes was a hassle. Now, people know which stores I like (Kohl's, etc.), and get me gift cards to those stores, knowing I'll get something that I'm happy with. If someone prefers a gift card for a present, I say respect their wishes and buy them the gift card.